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Bhima Koregaon cases taken over by NIA as Maha govt reviews probe

New Delhi: The National Investigative Agency (NIA) on Friday took over the Elgaar Parishad case, which was being reviewed by the Maharashtra government.

The development comes a day after the NCP-Congress-Shiv Sena government in the state held a meeting to review the case of violence at Koregaon Bhima in Pune.

Opposing the move, Maharashtra Home Minister Anil Deshmukh said the Centre did not take any permission before transferring the case to NIA.

The case dates back to January 1, 2018, when violence erupted at an event in Pune to mark 100 years of the Bhima-Koregaon battle, leaving one dead and several injured, including 10 policemen. The police had used the term "urban Naxals" while probing the alleged links of activists to the caste clashes at Bhima Koregaon in Pune. Alleging that speeches made by people at the Elgaar Parishad, an event organised at Pune's Shaniwar Wada on December 31, 2017, had instigated the violence in Koregaon Bhima a day later, the police filed an FIR against 23 people and arrested nine of them — Sudhir Dhawale, Rona Wilson, Surendra Gadling, Mahesh Raut, Shoma Sen, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves, Sudha Bharadwaj and Varavara Rao.

The chargesheet further alleged that a letter recovered from one of the arrested accused had revealed an "assassination conspiracy" against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Last month, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had demanded that an SIT be set up under a retired judge to probe the action taken by Pune Police in the case. The police claimed the conclave was backed by Maoists and they instigated violence near the Koregaon Bhima war memorial and arrested lawyers and activists from across the country. In November, the Pune city police filed a chargesheet against the activists and lawyers.

A second investigation was conducted by Pune rural police against right-wing Hindutva leaders Sambhaji Bhide 'Guruji' and Milind Ekbote, naming them as the orchestrators of the violence. Ekbote was granted bail by the Supreme Court, while Bhide was not arrested.

The previous government had also set up a two-member commission comprising retired Kolkata High Court Chief Justice J N Patel and former Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sumit Mullick in February 2018 to probe the sequence of events leading up to the New Year's Day violence. The commission is currently on its fourth extension that expires on

February 8.

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